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Do You Still Need Anti-Virus Protection?

Anti-virus software has become a must-have tool for many computer users. Not only do you have the threat of actual viruses, but worms, Trojans and spyware as well. However, the prevalence of malware has also resulted in numerous upgrades to various operating systems. Are these drastic changes enough to make anti-virus software unnecessary? Let's examine the facts.

Windows

All security experts and advanced users know that most malware is targeted at Windows-based computers. Realizing the many vulnerabilities, Microsoft addressed the problem by incorporating many anti-malware features into the Windows Vista operating system. One of these features is UAC (User Access Control). UAC has the ability to automatically detect potentially dangerous activity and suspend running processes and programs, which halts the installation of any type of malware.

Vista also includes Windows Defender, a useful tool that helps to protect your system against malware such as spyware and adware programs. Additionally, the system comes with the Windows firewall, which blocks various types of inbound and outbound system traffic.

This combination is a major improvement over the security features in Windows XP. At the same time, users remain vulnerable to internet exploits which distribute viruses via email, software downloads and infected web sites.

Macintosh

The Apple-branded operating system is superior to Windows in the mind of most Mac OS X users. According to a 2007 study conducted by McAfee, only 7 out of 236,000 known malware programs targeted the Mac OS X. However, this same report has caused the Macintosh platform to be targeted much more over the past few months. Virus coders have learned to script programs capable of penetrating a number of security features that were once considered impenetrable.

The Mac OS X remains a much safer option than Windows, though it is no longer considered virus free.

Linux

One would think that virus writers would refrain from trying to compromise Linux systems, especially considering the fact that a good amount Linux users know as much about malware and computer security.  However, as the fan base of this operating system continues to grow, so do the number of viruses and other malware programs.

In truth, a virus outbreak originating from a Linux system is very rare. While the system isn't as popular as Windows, many knowledgeable computer users are, making the need for anti-virus software not as important. However, if a good number of inexperienced users begin to surf the web on a Linux machine, installing anti-virus software may not be a bad idea.

The Verdict

With all of the new security implementations of Windows and the well known reliability of Linux and Macintosh, the answer regarding anti-virus software lies in the level of user experience and the activities being performed. If a user has little knowledge on the dangers of opening email attachments, contracting virus is much more likely. Another factor is internet behavior. A user freely surfing the web can easily contract a malware infection without even knowing it. In these instances, we recommend a quality anti-virus program, regardless of what operating system you're running.

Operating systems are now being designed with tools that are intended to slowly replace anti-virus software. This is partly due to the changes in virus pattens and because these new tools are designed to find more sophisticated forms of malware other than viruses.

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